The U.S. Army wants a new anti-tank weapon to replace the 50-year-old TOW missile. The Combat Missile System-Heavy (CCMS-H) project aims to develop a new missile that can destroy tanks defended by anti-rocket Active Protection Systems, as well as take out bunkers and other fortifications.
However, the famous missile’s legacy will partly remain, since the Army wants the new weapon to fit the old TOW launcher, according to a Request for Information (RFI) that the Army has put out to the defense industry.
The new weapon will have a longer range than the TOW missile. The Army wants a missile with a direct range of 4,500 meters (2.8 miles), and a cooperative range – using networked sensor data from friendly forces – of more than 8,000 meters (five miles). That’s a much longer reach than the 3,750-meter (2.3 miles) of the TOW 2 model. The new missile will also have to maintain a parabolic arc no higher than 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL), as part of a capability to perform top attack against targets shielded by terrain or fortifications against direct fire.
The missile will also be faster, though the desired speed of the weapon was not specified. Indeed, the CCMS-H – which presumably will receive a flashier name once in production – doesn’t yet have formal requirements, but rather an “Army Requirements Oversight Council-approved list of desired characteristics.”
However, those “desired characteristics” look impressive and include a new guidance system to replace the command wires that tether a TOW missile to its launcher.
“Munition attributes include dual command guidance, such as Fire and Forget (F&F), Command-Line of Sight (CLOS), or Semi-Active Laser (SAL) homing, ‘shoot on the move,’ reduced time of flight, Counter Active Protection Systems (CAPS), maneuverability, maximized range, and an abort or divert before impact capability,” the Army says.
Particularly interesting is that the missile should be capable of switching targets mid-flight, and have the ability to network with other weapons to coordinate fires and avoid too many missiles hitting the same target.
“CCMS-H should incorporate the ability to network during Cooperative Engagements (CE). The CCMS-H guidance system should incorporate reprogrammable target prioritization into the munition while aiding target detection and identification. The munition system should enable semi-simultaneous engagements of multiple threats from single or multiple platforms by a single leader while ensuring distribution of fires and managing over-kill,” according to the Army’s RIF.
The missile must also function despite electronic warfare and GPS jamming, be proof against cyberattack, and survive electromagnetic pulses that could fry electronic devices.
Setting the new standard
Nonetheless, CCMS-H will have big shoes to fill. The TOW (Tube-launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-guided) missile, which dates back to 1970, has served well for a half-century.
“The weapon system is deployed with more than 20 international armed forces and integrated on more than 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms,” according to TOW manufacturer Raytheon’s website. The TOW has seen combat in numerous conflicts, from the Vietnam War to the Arab-Israeli wars, to the Syrian Civil War.
But even if the TOW missile is on its way out, the TOW launcher will be around, which will at least save the Army some money. Sticking with a TOW-sized missile will “facilitate continued utilization of the 4,000+ fielded TOW missile launchers,” the Army said.
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